NFC West: Max Komar

The Arizona Cardinals are the first NFC West team to announce roster moves made to comply with the Tuesday deadline for 80-man rosters.

Teams can carry 90 players until then.

The Cardinals made the following moves to comply:
  • Two players to IR: Running back Ryan Williams' placement on injured reserve was expected. He suffered a torn patella tendon more than a week ago. The news on Greg Toler's torn ACL came as a mild surprise. He and Williams are out for the season.
  • Six players waived: fullback Charles Ali, receiver Daiveun Curry-Chapman, linebacker Curtis Gatewood, linebacker Duke Lemmens, tackle Eric Mensik, tackle Jason Speredon. No real surprises here.
  • Two waived/injured: Safety Tommy Irvin (ankle injury) and receiver Max Komar (knee) received waivers with an injury designation. That means both players will land on injured reserve if no other team claims them on waivers. Teams sometimes reach injury settlements with players in these situations, forfeiting rights to the players in the short term while leaving open the door for a return during the season. Players on IR cannot return until the following season.

The chart compares current position-by-position roster counts for Arizona against 53-man counts in Week 1 last season. Teams must reduce to 53 players Saturday.
NFC West wide receivers are casting longer shadows these days.

Division teams have added three wideouts standing at least 6-foot-3 this offseason, led by Sidney Rice in Seattle and Braylon Edwards in San Francisco.

The NFC West now has more receivers listed at 6-5 than it has listed at 5-10.

Seattle is likely to field the tallest starting tandem, with the 6-5 Mike Williams opposite the 6-3 Rice.

The 49ers are the only team in the division with fewer than four receivers standing taller than 6-1. The St. Louis Rams have five. Arizona and Seattle have four apiece.

I've gone through rosters and broken out NFC West receivers by listed heights:
The chart breaks down NFC West teams by receiver height.

The Rams have eight receivers standing at least 6-1, no surprise given offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' history at the position.

The highest-profile kicker in the NFC West enjoys stimulating thought with provocative statements.

Jay Feely offered more fodder Thursday on the "Doug Gottlieb Show."

On his Arizona Cardinals acquiring Kevin Kolb: "You can't underestimate how important it was in trying to re-sign Larry Fitzgerald after this year. He is the face of the franchise and one of, if not the best receiver in the NFL -- exactly the kind of guy you want to build around. Obviously, if they didn't have a quarterback of the future in place, the likelihood of trying to re-sign Larry Fitzgerald after this year would greatly diminish."

Getting a younger quarterback with a long-range future was critical, Feely said, in part because Fitzgerald would want to envision himself building a rapport over several years. Feely expects the Cardinals to sign a slot receiver to complement a group featuring two younger receivers he mentioned by name, Max Komar and Stephen Williams.

Feely also offered thoughts on Carson Palmer's decision to stay away from the Cincinnati Bengals while demanding a trade. Feely, as a Cardinals union rep, would seem more inclined to side with Palmer under the circumstances. That was not the case.
On Palmer's demands: "People may see this as naive. My own personal view, though, is when you sign a contract, you should honor that contract. And I completely understand that the owners don't do that. Because I signed a three-year deal with Miami, went down there my first year, had the best year of my career, set the franchise record for field-goal percentage and got cut after that season when they cleaned house. ...

"Part of signing a huge deal is, you are embracing that franchise, embracing all the problems that existed. I had no problem with LeBron James as a free agent wanting to go somewhere else. ... When you sign that deal, when you accept all that money, when you accept the huge signing bonus that you get, you are accepting everything that goes along with being the face of the franchise and the quarterback of that team, the leader of that team and the face of that city."

I'm with Gottlieb in leaning more toward Palmer's side on this one simply because Palmer's frustrations with the Bengals appear justified.
Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson breaks down the wide receivers of each NFC West team. Today: Arizona Cardinals.

Larry Fitzgerald is far and away the best wide receiver in the NFC West. It isn’t even close. Statistically, 2010 was a down year by Fitzgerald’s extremely high standards, but he still produced and obviously was hindered by the play of Arizona’s quarterbacks. Fitzgerald is a true student of the game and has the best ball skills in the league. He isn’t a burner, but he can get deep. When the ball is in the air, it belongs to him. He is big and physical and has improved a great deal after the catch. He is a superstar.

[+] EnlargeSteve Breaston
Robin Alam/Icon SMISteve Breaston, who had 47 catches for 718 yards in 2010, may not be back in Arizona next season.
Steve Breaston, who could leave in free agency, was at his best when he had Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin taking pressure off his narrow shoulders. Breaston put together a pretty pedestrian 2010 campaign, but like Fitzgerald and all of Arizona’s targets, he was not helped by QB play. Breaston is good after the catch and can make big plays with the ball in his hands. He has good speed and some big-play ability, but he isn’t especially strong. His reception totals have decreased the past three seasons, and drops were a problem last season. Breaston probably has peaked, but that isn’t to say that he can't be a useful member of any passing attack.

Early Doucet has size, strength and decent movement skills. There is ability there, but he fought injuries last year, which has become the norm for him. This is a player who could surprise, though, and break out if the supporting cast is substantially enhanced.

A guy I really like is Andre Roberts, and I expect him to take a big leap forward in his second season. He could end up being the starter opposite Fitzgerald if Breaston departs. Not especially tall, but well built, Roberts is quick and explosive. He came on strong to finish the season, which I expect to be a sign of good things to come.

Stephen Williams lit it up in the preseason and looked like he might be a factor early in the season but did little of consequence when it mattered. Williams’ height is what stands out most. Max Komar also is in the picture, but he is very unproven. Komar did catch six passes over the final two games, though. His role could expand.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL

NFC West Week 16 decisive moment

December, 28, 2010
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Arizona Cardinals were dangerously close to blowing another fourth-quarter lead.

They had done so spectacularly during narrow defeats to Minnesota (27-24) and Tampa Bay (38-35) earlier in the season, and it was happening again in Week 16.

The Dallas Cowboys had turned a 21-3 deficit into a 26-24 lead at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals faced fourth-and-15 from their 19-yard line with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Larry Fitzgerald's 100-game streak with a reception was in danger of ending. Rookie quarterback John Skelton had completed only 8 of 20 passes for 132 yards.

Moments don't get much more decisive. Either the Cardinals would improbably complete a pass for at least 15 yards or they would lose the game.

Skelton's 26-yard strike to Fitzgerald gave the Cardinals a chance. Skelton followed up with a 6-yard pass to Tim Hightower and a 19-yarder to Max Komar. Two clock-stopping spike passes stood as Skelton's only incompletions after the fourth-down play.

Jay Feely's 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining won the game for Arizona.

"On that last drive, it got pretty shaky there for a while on fourth-and-long," Skelton told reporters after the game, "but Larry ran a great route, found a soft spot in the defense and I was able to hit him. That one play got the momentum going for the rest of the drive."

Around the NFC West: 49ers' plans

December, 28, 2010
Matt Maiocco of asks and answers questions about the 49ers' search for a general manager and head coach. Maiocco on which assistant coaches the 49ers might want to retain, beyond interim coach Jim Tomsula: "Certainly, running backs coach Tom Rathman, offensive line coach Mike Solari, tight ends coach Pete Hoener and outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver will be considered among those who have a chance to be retained. The organization has a high opinion of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, but the new coach will have the call. Also, with new offensive ideas coming to the team, it remains to be seen if offensive coordinator Mike Johnson fits what the new coach will have in mind. Of course, a lot of the staff will not return, including a possible retirement. Inside linebackers coach Vantz Singletary, Mike Singletary's nephew, and pass-rush coach Al Harris, who played with Singletary with the Bears, are no longer with the team."

Also from Maiocco: highlights from Jed York's news conference. York: "I've spoken to a lot of people that have been in and around the game this season to get their feedback on how to build a team. I think when you look at teams that have been successful out there, it's not about hiring the flashiest name as your head coach or GM or both. It's about making sure the GM and head coach are really working together. you need your general manager, and your general manager is a person who is going to live and die with the coach."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a Mike Singletary timeline.

Also from Barrows: The 49ers are in a situation similar to the one they encountered in 2005.

More from Barrows: Unlike in 2005, the 49ers plan to hire a general manager before they hire a head coach.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat wonders whether York has what it takes to hire the right general manager. Cohn: "Jed cannot allow himself to be alone in the interview room with general-manager candidates. He doesn’t know what questions to ask. So much depends on knowing the questions and evaluating the answers. Jed needs wise old heads in the room with him, men who have done it before. How about Carmen Policy and/or John McVay? How about people from the league office? I know for a fact the league wants to help the Yorks because it wants a stronger team in San Francisco."

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Singletary's firing was more emotional for linebacker Patrick Willis.

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says hiring Singletary was a mistake, with the team rushing into the decision as if eager to appease a fan base.

Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says hiring a GM before hiring a coach is a wise move.

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are in their current mess because York brought them there. Ostler: "Twice in a row, York -- with assists from his mom and dad -- hired spectacularly wrong coaches. York, 29, has to get it right this time, because you know what the rule is in hiring people to lead your team: Three strikes and you're out ... unless you own the team, in which case you can take all the mulligans you want."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says York is conceding he needs help to field a winner.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are 2-1 with John Skelton as their starting quarterback even though Skelton has not completed even 50 percent of his passes in a game. Multiple return touchdowns put Skelton in position to win against Dallas. There was little sustainable about the performance on offense. Somers: "It's doubtful that Skelton will have shown the Cardinals enough to keep them from pursuing a veteran quarterback this off-season. Skelton has completed just 46 percent of his passes, and he has just one touchdown pass in 101 throws. But he does not have an interception, and he made two important throws during the game-winning drive against the Cowboys. The first was a 26-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald on fourth-and-15, and the second was a 19-yard pass to Max Komar, a play Skelton made after escaping pressure."

Also from Somers: Skelton does appear to do a good job keeping his composure.

More from Somers: Defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson has rejoined the team after a scare Saturday. Somers: "Secondary coach Donnie Henderson is back at work after missing last Saturday's game. Henderson apparently blacked out while driving down a ramp at the stadium and spent the night at a local hospital. Doctors are still evaluating tests, but it appears Henderson might have been dehyrdrated. He watched the game from the hospital. Given that two of Henderson's DBs returned interceptions for touchdowns, Henderson might have to beg to be in attendance for the finale against the 49ers."

Darren Urban of says he thinks the Cardinals' defensive linemen are better suited for the 3-4 than for a 4-3 defense.

Also from Urban: The Cardinals are taking a wait-and-see approach at quarterback. Urban: "There was much praise coming from Whisenhunt Monday toward his young QB, but also much caution. Whisenhunt has repeatedly raved about Skelton’s accountability and temperament for the position. He noted the improvisation skills Skelton showed on the crucial pass to Max Komar -- on the move under pressure -- that set up the game-winning field goal, and the coolness in which Skelton found Larry Fitzgerald on fourth down. He likes the idea Skelton can scramble for a few yards when necessary. Yet there are still issues like calling plays, communicating the offense, even fumbling the snap that teammate Steve Breaston was forced to fall upon to save a turnover."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows what critics might be thinking. Spagnuolo: "Here's what I know about this league: if you have one more point than they do at the end of the game, it all counts the same. The goal is to win the football game. Now again, I would say this. There may be another game going forward where you do it differently. We chose to do it this way, it happened to work out, so this time we were right. Could it have bitten us in the butt? Maybe, yeah. But just all things considered and the way it was going and what we were doing on both sides of the ball, I thought it was the right thing. ... And that's all on me. I'll take the full blame if there is blame, you put it that way."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Danario Alexander is getting more playing time for the Rams.

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says moving the Rams' Week 17 game to prime time hurts the local affiliate that had been carrying Rams games this season.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks ahead to the Rams' game at Seattle and wonders whether the team, and specifically Spagnuolo, will be uptight.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams seem fine with the idea of playing in prime time. James Laurinaitis: "I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't excited to play in this game. It's exciting. It's exciting for the fans, and it's exciting for us to be in a situation where all America is watching."

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues why the Rams were conservative with a lead against the 49ers. Thomas: "The Rams have a defensive-oriented head coach in Steve Spagnuolo, and that usually means a conservative approach offensively. Spagnuolo has enough confidence in his defense that he’s more than willing to put the game on their shoulders at various times. The tactic has worked most of the time against lesser teams and mediocre teams, but will it be the right thing to do when the Rams are matched up with elite teams in the future? Maybe we’ll find out in the playoffs."

Nick Wagoner of says the team hopes to get tight end Mike Hoomanawanui back from injury this week. Also: "The Rams will not be adjusting their travel schedule at all. They will travel on Saturday afternoon to Seattle and get in around the same time they normally would. The only change is a little different game day because of the wait for the game. But other than that, it will be business as usual."

Clare Farnsworth of offers notes as the team prepares to face the Rams in Week 17. Coach Pete Carroll on left tackle Russell Okung: "Russell did reinjure his ankle some. He’s still hobbling a little bit. If you watch him closely, he’s not 100 percent. But he was determined to get back. The docs were trying to sit him down for a bit and let it rest. He said, 'I can go. I can go.' So we shoved him back out there and he did. He did a nice job of finishing the game. It’s a factor in his play. It is what it is. We’ve just got to keep trying to help him get through it."

Also from Farnsworth: Matt Hasselbeck is determined to play against the Rams, but the Seahawks are preparing as though Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says, among other things, that the Seahawks cannot run against anyone. O'Neil: "Not even the Bucs, who were allowing a league-high 4.9 yards per carry entering the game with a defense missing defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Marshawn Lynch's 29-yarder in the first quarter was promising. Trouble was that one run accounted for nearly one-third of Seattle's rushing yardage in the game. Seattle still hasn't had a back rush for more than 100 yards this season."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers highlights from Carroll's news conference Monday. Boling: "He acknowledged the oddity of a six-win team still contending for a playoff berth, calling it an 'interesting finish to the season.' "

Also from Boling: thoughts on this strange Seahawks season. Boling: "I saw this as a rebuilding season, with it taking time to assimilate and improve. Not one in which they would peak in October."

More from Boling: Whitehurst is the quarterback for now.

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Carroll was in a similar situation when he coached the Patriots.

Rams' Karney, Cards' Watson inactive

December, 5, 2010
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals named some healthy contributors inactive Sunday.

The Rams sat down fullback Mike Karney for a second consecutive week even though Karney was available to them. Brit Miller is getting some snaps at fullback in the base offense. Miller also offers more on special teams. The Rams have sometimes moved a tight end into the backfield for blocking help, although their preferred choice in that role, Mike Hoomanwanui, is inactive with an ankle injury.

The Cardinals named defensive lineman Gabe Watson inactive after their defensive front struggled badly against the San Francisco 49ers last week. Defensive end Calais Campbell, inactive with an ankle injury last week, is active Sunday. Watson had been active for the previous three games.

Also inactive for Arizona: receiver Max Komar, cornerback A.J. Jefferson, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Marshay Green, linebacker Reggie Walker and center Ben Claxton. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

Also inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Jerome Murphy, linebacker Bryan Kehl, guard John Greco and defensive tackle Darell Scott. Scott has been injured. Defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, inactive against Denver, is active for this game.

Hitting key points on MNF inactive lists

November, 29, 2010
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Wide receiver Steve Breaston is active for the Arizona Cardinals despite his questionable status on the injury report.

Teammates Calais Campbell and Greg Toler, both starters on defense, will miss the Cardinals' game against the San Francisco 49ers. Both were named inactive. Alan Branch starts for Campbell (injured ankle) at defensive end. Michael Adams starts for Toler (foot) at right cornerback.

Toler had struggled some before suffering the injury. Adams is tenacious, but he lacks size.

Breaston will play despite a knee injury. Versatile running back LaRod Stephens-Howling is also active for the Cardinals. A hamstring injury sidelined him against Kansas City last week. Stephens-Howling has dynamic skills as a kickoff returner. The Cardinals use him as a running back and wide receiver on offense. He's particularly useful to them on second down, often with fullback Jason Wright and three wide receivers.

Inactive for the 49ers: kicker Joe Nedney, cornerback Tramaine Brock, cornerback Williams James, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, left tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback. Barry Sims starts at left tackle for the 49ers. He was steady in relief last season, but perhaps a bit rusty against Tampa Bay last week. His matchup against the Cardinals' Joey Porter could be worth monitoring.

Inactive for the Cardinals: receiver Max Komar, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Marshay Green, linebacker Reggie Walker, center Ben Claxton, Campbell and Toler. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

Making sense of major Week 10 injury news

November, 14, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers announced their list of inactive players for Week 10 without making waves.

The situation was much different in Arizona, where the Cardinals named defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and running back Beanie Wells (knee) inactive against Seattle. The Seahawks named left tackle Russell Okung inactive, no surprise but a significant development nonetheless.

A look at NFC West inactives:

Arizona Cardinals: Wells, Dockett, receiver Max Komar, cornerback A.J. Jefferson, safety Hamza Abdullah, linebacker Cyril Obiozor and center Ben Claxton. John Skelton is the third quarterback. Paris Lenon is starting at linebacker despite an ankle injury. Alan Branch starts for Dockett. Branch has played well this season; he had two sacks against the Seahawks earlier this season in a breakout game for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Okung, receiver Brandon Stokley, fullback Michael Robinson, guard Mike Gibson, receiver Golden Tate, nose tackle Colin Cole and defensive lineman E.J. Wilson. Gibson provided quality depth on the offensive line. Ruvell Martin is active at receiver while Stokley and Tate recover from injuries.

St. Louis Rams: cornerback Justin King, cornerback Quincy Butler, safety James Butler, tight end Fendi Onobun, linebacker David Vobora, guard John Greco, receiver Danario Alexander and defensive end Eugene Sims. The Rams are thin in the secondary, as usual, but the 49ers aren't likely to spread the field with wide receivers all afternoon, either.

San Francisco 49ers: receiver Kyle Williams, quarterback Alex Smith, cornerback Tramaine Brock, linebacker Keaton Kristick, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, tackle Barry Sims, tackle Alex Boone and receiver Jason Hill. The 49ers are keeping four wide receivers active, the minimum. They are healthier at tight end.

Steve Breaston inactive for Cardinals

October, 24, 2010
SEATTLE -- The weather forecast calling for rain at Qwest Field has proved more accurate than reports suggesting Steve Breaston would likely return from injury to start for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7.

Breaston was named among the Cardinals' inactive players minutes ago. Rookie Andre Roberts starts in his place. Receiver Stephen Williams is also inactive. He has a back injury. Arizona's active receivers include Larry Fitzgerald, Max Komar, Early Doucet and Onrea Jones.

Also inactive for Arizona: safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Trumaine McBride, center Ben Claxton, linebacker Alex Hall and nose tackle Gabe Watson. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

Doucet's return from injury should help Arizona deal with Breaston's continuing absence. Breaston did provide a deep threat, however, and the Cardinals could miss his ability to strike downfield. Seattle has one fewer top-flight target to worry about defending, welcome news for the Seahawks as they play without starting corner Kelly Jennings.

Around the NFC West: Rams' Gilyard eager

October, 15, 2010
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says injuries and illness have slowed the early development of Rams rookie Mardy Gilyard. Clayton's injury could give Gilyard additional opportunities. The Rams love the aggressive, borderline cocky attitude Gilyard brings to the game. Gilyard: "Through misfortunes, it's my turn now. And I do not want to let any of these guys down. I do not want to let James Hall down, I do not want to let Chris Long down, I do not want to let Steven Jackson down, I don't want to let Sam (Bradford) down, I don't want to let Brandon Gibson down, Donnie Avery, Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry. I don't want to let any of those guys down, because I feel like I owe them everything. Especially the vets, who've just put their arm on my shoulder and haven't treated me like a bonehead rook." Count that quote as evidence the Rams have a good thing going on the team chemistry front.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Steven Jackson is closing in on Eric Dickerson in the team's record book. Thomas: "In his seventh season with the Rams, Jackson needs 141 yards rushing to surpass Dickerson's career record. Dickerson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, rushed for 7,245 yards in just five seasons with the Rams. Jackson is at 7,105 -- and counting."

Also from Thomas: The Rams' sponsors have bought enough tickets to the team's game against San Diego to avoid a local television blackout. Failing to sell out games hurts, but sponsors' willingness to scoop up tickets reflects strong TV ratings and, perhaps, confidence in the longer-term direction of the team.

More from Thomas: Brandon Gibson needs to pick up his game following Mark Clayton's season-ending injury.

Nick Wagoner of says the team hopes to get a boost from its returning tight ends.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals guard Deuce Lutui is improving while his weight continues to drop. Lutui is one of the more hilarious people I've encountered in an NFL locker room. Bickley got Lutui going on his Tongan roots. Lutui: "The history of Tongan people, we were warriors! We were the Vikings of the South Pacific, the pearl of Polynesia. I come from the Kingdom of Tonga! That means, when I'm Tongan to the 'T,' I'm Tongan to the death! I'm a Lutui, and I come from a tiny nation, a dot in the middle of the map. Even if you look, you might miss it."

Darren Urban of thinks rookie Andre Roberts will be the Cardinals' fourth receiver behind Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet once all the team's wideouts are healthy. That would leave coaches to choose between Stephen Williams and Max Komar for the final roster spot at receiver on game days. Seems like Williams needs to be part of the mix. He has worked ahead of Roberts in the rotation previously.

Clare Farnsworth of offers highlights from practice Thursday, plus this quote from Matt Hasselbeck about Julius Peppers: "Julius Peppers is a great, great player. When he was in Carolina, they were playing him at wide receiver. It’s not often that a guy’s playing defensive end and wide receiver who’s not like in the sixth grade. It’s amazing that he’s doing it in the NFL." The play Peppers made in picking off Kurt Warner at University of Phoenix Stadium last season stands out as one of his more memorable ones.

Also from Farnsworth: Hasselbeck's presnap battle with Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher should be a good one. Hasselbeck: "Urlacher does a great job of audibling as a middle linebacker. He’s a great player and he’s well-coached. He’s been playing in this scheme a long time and you’ll see when an offense checks – a quarterback checks – he’ll check. Or, if he gets the sense that you’re pretending to check, then he’ll call it off. It’s one of those things where you make eye contact with him, you’re making a check, and he’s like, 'No. No. No. Let’s just leave this one on.' Or other times, he’ll be like, 'Yeah, let’s check.' And so he’s a great player."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who is eagerly anticipating his Seattle debut.

Greg Johns of says Chester Pitts missed practice to rest a sore knee Thursday. Pitts has had a tough time putting together back-to-back full practices on his surgically repaired knee. If the knee does improve enough, Seattle will have found an upgrade at left guard. That's why the team has been willing to carry him on its roster this long without getting any on-field contributions.

Also from Johns: Rains began falling just as the Seahawks' offensive linemen broke their season-long silence in compliance with NFL rules.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks center Chris Spencer as saying Seattle's line is beginning to jell.

Also from Williams: Lynch has never played at Soldier Field and he's looking forward to playing in Walter Payton's house. Lynch: "Sweetness did it there for a long time. So I mean probably to go in there and have one of those games that he would have had would be wonderful, wonderful for our backfield. But just to get out there with my guys and just put something together and hopefully come out with a win is my biggest thing."

John Morgan of Field Gulls explains Tyler Polumbus' perceived drop in play by noting that Seattle's game against the Rams marked the first time the team fell behind against a capable defense. Having to bounce between right and left tackle also had to present challenges.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald quotes Seattle line coach Art Valero this way regarding Russell Okung's matchup with Peppers: "They’re all good in this league. It’s like a rodeo. You’ve got to ride the bull that comes out of chute A. That’s yours, whether you want him or you don’t. You have no choice. If you’re afraid, go to church. They’ve got no choice. They’re all on full scholarship, so they’ve got to go play."

Matt Maiocco of says the 49ers want quarterback Alex Smith to play with a more aggressive mindset. Smith isn't naturally aggressive. His demeanor is reserved. He became more assertive throughout the offseason because he had a better understanding of the offense and he felt as though he had earned the starting job. But he's still not naturally aggressive. The question now becomes whether he can become more aggressive and play more freely without forcing the ball into coverage. Smith has been better this season when freed to "cut it loose" after the 49ers have fallen behind. Can he adopt that mindset earlier in games? He has actually been quite effective on opening drives recently.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up the 49ers' evolving offense.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at the 49ers' improved prospects on third down.

Also from Branch: The Raiders-49ers rivalry is more between fans than players. Imagine my delight (dread?) upon hearing that my dear mother would be attending the Raiders-49ers game at Candlestick Park this weekend. She doesn't really follow football, but was invited to the game as part of a group outing. I told her to watch Nos. 21 and 52 on the 49ers. But mostly I'm hoping she doesn't find herself in the middle of a brawl between Raiders and 49ers fans. Keep your head on a swivel, Mom.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' run-heavy play calling on first down against Philadelphia was designed to produce more manageable third-down situations.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Michael Crabtree is excited to face the Raiders after Oakland drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey over him in 2009. Crabtree: "I'm not worried about Darrius. I'm focused on winning the game. But at the same time, I'm thinking about the Raiders."

The Associated Press says former 49ers guard Woody Peoples passed away at age 67.

AllNight audio: Cardinals' QB situation

October, 13, 2010
My weekly conversation with ESPN AllNight host Jason Smith focused on the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals coming out of Week 5.

My thoughts on the Cardinals' decision to start Max Hall at quarterback:
We know what Derek Anderson can do. They know Derek Anderson is not going to be the starter beyond this season. They need to find out over the remainder of this season, what is Max Hall? Is he a potential No. 2 next year? Is he going to grow into being a starter, somebody you feel comfortable with as an ascending player? I think that is what you have to find out. And if he doesn't pan out and just becomes awful at some point, maybe you have to play Derek Anderson, maybe you take a look at John Skelton. But just staying the course with Derek Anderson, they saw where that was headed and didn't see the improvement taking place.

That last part -- the lack of improvement -- was what made the decision easier.

Hall is much less a finished product, so if he struggles some, it's more understandable. But coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday he expects Hall to improve by avoiding some of the mistakes he made against New Orleans, including when Hall forced a pass to a double-covered Larry Fitzgerald even though Max Komar was wide open (the defensive back covering Komar slipped on the play). The Saints picked off the pass.

Getting the ball to Fiztgerald needs to be a priority and Hall did a good job making sure key throws went to the Cardinals' best receiver. It's also important for Hall to see more of the field before locking onto a receiver. The mistake to Fitzgerald came on the Cardinals' first possession. Hall was not intercepted again.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 29, 2010
Arizona: Losing No. 2 receiver Steve Breaston to a knee injury affects the Cardinals on offense and special teams. The passing game was already producing sporadically. Opponents have contained Larry Fitzgerald relatively well. Take away Breaston and the job becomes less difficult, particularly with third receiver Early Doucet also unavailable. Undrafted rookie Stephen Williams becomes the No. 2 receiver. Max Komar, another undrafted rookie, becomes the third receiver. Rookie third-round choice Andre Roberts becomes the fourth receiver. Running back Beanie Wells was going to become a bigger part of the offense anyway. That transition should only accelerate without Breaston and Doucet, provided the Cardinals are winning or the score is close enough for Arizona to stick with its ground game. Removing Breaston also strains the Cardinals' punt-return team. Arizona doesn't have a proven, reliable punt returner. San Diego's secondary was opportunistic at home against Jacksonville. Turnovers are a concern for Arizona with so many new faces at receiver.

St. Louis: Running back Steven Jackson suffered a strained groin in Week 3 and it's unclear whether he'll play a full game if the Rams do clear him. If he plays, Jackson will be facing one of the NFL's better run defenses to this point when Seattle visits the Edward Jones Dome. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford proved he could run the offense without Jackson, but that becomes more difficult over the course of a full game if Jackson cannot play. Having Jackson at less than 100 percent would also put additional strain on the Rams' offense. The Rams are also light at tight end while Billy Bajema and Mike Hoomanawanui recover from injuries. On defense, the Rams remain without starting tackle Clifton Ryan, who is battling migraines, and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe missed practice to rest a thigh injury. The Rams are healthier than they've been at cornerback, but it's still not a very good situation depth-wise if Seattle floods the secondary with receivers.

Seattle: Left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Chester Pitts are practicing following extended injury layoffs, but the Seahawks probably will not rush either into the starting lineup just yet. Okung could play a series in a reserve role as the Seahawks work him back into the lineup following a severe high-ankle sprain. Pitts is closer to being ready, but it's doubtful the team would move him into the starting lineup this week. The team expects receiver Mike Williams to play Sunday after suffering a shoulder injury against San Diego. Coach Pete Carroll was vague when discussing injuries to cornerback Marcus Trufant and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Both are key figures on defense for Seattle. The team missed Trufant in particular when he left the game against San Diego. Trufant (ankle), Mebane (shoulder) and linebacker Aaron Curry (hamstring) will be limited in practice.

San Francisco: Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and inside linebacker Takeo Spikes missed practice Wednesday. Spikes was able to play Sunday despite his knee injury. The team thought Ginn might return last week. His absence removes a speed element from the offense, although the 49ers weren't using him as much as I had anticipated before Ginn suffered a knee injury in Week 1. That could change with Michael Johnson taking over as offensive coordinator. Veteran cornerback William James remains limited by an ankle injury. Free safety Dashon Goldson is also banged up. Injuries are probably among the least of the 49ers' concerns at this point.

Golden Tate exception to NFC West rule

September, 27, 2010
Fourteen rookies have returned punts in the NFL this season.

Six of the 14 play for NFC West teams. A seventh, Jorrick Calvin of Philadelphia, was a Cardinals draft choice this year.

Seattle's Golden Tate leads NFL rookies with a 25.2-yard average on five returns. The other five rookie punt returners from NFC West teams have 13 returns for 66 yards, good for a 5.1-yard average. They have also accounted for four of the seven fumbles by rookie returners this season.

The Arizona Cardinals' Andre Roberts did not fumble in his NFL debut as a returner Sunday, but two punts sent his way bounced off teammates. The Oakland Raiders recovered both times. Both punts were shorter than anticipated. Roberts might have been lined up too deep on one of them.

"I’m not down on Andre," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Monday. "He is a young player. He has got skill in that area and we have to continue to work with him. Fortunately, we were able to still win the game and now we can work on that without the negativity of a loss."

The chart ranks NFL rookie punt returners by average yards per return. Tate looks like a natural for the role. He has returns of 63 and 31 yards in his first two games (Tate was inactive for the opener).

Around the NFC West: Lott's speech

September, 23, 2010
Matt Maiocco of passes along Ronnie Lott's thoughts regarding the speech Lott delivered to the Saints one day before New Orleans faced the 49ers. The Saints asked Lott to address their team about what it takes to win back-to-back championships. Lott: "So it is my responsibility to at least share some thoughts. A lot of that is, if you go back and look at that 1982 Super Bowl, 15 guys got in trouble because we didn't know how to handle a Super Bowl experience. Fifteen guys got in trouble because they didn't understand what it was like. ... I'm very confident and comfortable that whatever I did was for the right intentions of making sure I never fracture the game and I never fracture my relationship with the 49ers." The fact that Lott would see no conflict in addressing the Saints before their game against the 49ers shows players think differently than some fans think. I just don't see this as a big deal and Lott obviously did not, either. Lott will always be a 49er, and I've always thought he valued his legacy in San Francisco. Side note: I spent part of pregame warm-ups on the field speaking with another former NFC West great whose relationship with the current Saints regime is even stronger. Cortez Kennedy has worked for the Saints and he sometimes travels with the team. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was with the Seahawks when Kennedy played for the team. They remain close.

Also from Maiocco: Frank Gore has played all but two offensive snaps this season.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Lott was "rooting [his] butt off" for the 49ers on Monday night, according to Lott.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers used their editorial input to remove KPIX's Dennis O'Donnell from their weekly interview show featuring coach Mike Singletary. That's no surprise after O'Donnell agitated Singletary with repeated questions about communication problems at Seattle in Week 1. Brown: "KPIX originally posted the interview on its web site but removed it when it became a minor sensation. Singletary on Tuesday acknowledged that he lost his cool during the interview. He vowed to be more measured in his responses."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says rookie NaVorro Bowman is the 49ers' only real option for replacing the injured Takeo Spikes.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' communication will face challenges at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 3. Alex Smith: "Yeah it will be another really good test for us," he said. "In the first three weeks, we'll be playing in the two, I think, of the two loudest outdoor stadiums. So yeah, it will be another good test for us as far as communication goes. I think it's something we've improved on but, you know, I think it's one of those things that you can never stop working on."

Also from Branch: Smith runs well for a quarterback.

More from Branch: Gore says rookie guard Mike Iupati improved markedly in his second regular-season game, allowing the 49ers to run inside effectively against the Saints.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says three of the Cardinals' five receivers in Week 2 were rookies. Somers: "All have had shaky moments early in their careers. Last week, (Stephen) Williams lined up wrong on the first play and dropped a pass. In Week 1, (Max) Komar lost a fumble at the Rams' 5. Roberts struggled to catch the ball in camp and hasn't seized the opportunity to become the team's main punt returner." Veteran receiver Steve Breaston and more recently Stephen Spach have also had problems lining up properly over the last couple seasons. They have incurred penalties. The Cardinals mixed up their personnel groupings in Week 2, sometimes using running back LaRod Stephens-Howling as a receiver. They used two tight ends and three wide receivers at times. They used three running backs and two tight ends. The changes were not very productive, though.

Also from Somers: Beanie Wells is eager to make his 2010 regular-season debut.

Darren Urban of checks in with Larry Fitzgerald regarding NFL teams' willingness to make changes. Fitzgerald: "This game is about winning. Whatever a coach feels is going to give his team the best chance to win, he’s going to do. The New York Giants, they are 0-2. We’re talking about a team that won the Super Bowl three seasons ago. And they are talking about that coach being on the hot seat – a perennial playoff football team. That shows you how fickle this league is. It don’t matter what you did two years ago. People just don’t care. What are you doing right now today? Are you having success with your quarterback play, that’s all that matters. In Tennessee, Vince Young, wins what, 10 of 11 down the stretch last year and he gets benched Week Two. That’s just how it is these days."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals are working to improve on third down.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams did make an offer to the Chargers for receiver Vincent Jackson. Thomas: "One of the sources also said that the hangup in Jackson going to the Rams was the trade terms with the Chargers. In any event, it became apparent Tuesday that the Rams had decided to pass on Jackson."

Also from Thomas: The Rams are 0-2 despite holding their first two opponents to 17 points or fewer.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Bradley Fletcher is getting lots of action at cornerback in what almost amounts to another rookie season for him. Coats: "It's no surprise that opposing offensive coordinators have been targeting Fletcher and trying to stay away from veteran cornerback Ron Bartell. Fletcher expects more of the same Sunday, when Washington and veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb visit the Edward Jones Dome."

Also from Coats: The Rams could seek an extension for selling tickets to avoid a local television blackout in Week 3.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have added Laurent Robinson and Oshiomogho Atogwe to their injured list.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' coaches must be more creative in helping an undermanned roster. Miklasz: "In 18 games under (Steve) Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the Rams have scored 28 points -- with only one touchdown from scrimmage -- in the third quarter. That's an average 1.5 points per third quarter. It hasn't been so bad in the second quarter of the 18 games; the Rams have been outscored 127 to 91. But in the third quarter the Rams have been outscored 103-28. This perhaps explains why I'm of the opinion that the staff seems to be slow to adjust, adapt and counter the other team's strategy when reorganizing at halftime." Spagnuolo took over the team in 2009. The 2008 Rams averaged 9.6 points per game -- make that 2.2 now that I'm looking at the right stats -- in third quarters on their way to a 2-14 record.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Rams rookie Mardy Gilyard wants more playing time on offense and the Rams might give it to him.

Nick Wagoner of offers a few Rams-related notes. Wagoner: "The Rams added QB Thaddeus Lewis to the practice squad and he was back on the field Wednesday. Lewis was released to make room for CB Marquis Johnson last week. Because of the injuries up and down the roster, the Rams need every spot possible so carrying a third signal caller didn’t make sense."

Also from Wagoner: a look at James Laurinaitis' leadership skills.

Clare Farnsworth of says rookie safety Earl Thomas expects more action against the Chargers, a team that features its tight end in the passing game.

Also from Farnsworth: Colin Cole has anchored the Seahawks' strong run defense. Coach Pete Carroll: "He’s been very effective in the first couple of games and really given us good play. The style really suits his makeup. He’s very physical at the point, doesn’t get knocked around and also has good instincts to find the football." That last part has stood out. Cole has come off blocks and gotten near the football.

More from Farnsworth: Carroll and Lofa Tatupu are together again. Carroll: "When you’ve been with guys for some time, the depth and the reservoir of things that you have in your pocket really makes you versatile and can make you really strong and very adaptable. And that’s something you have to have in this league."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks think Deon Butler can stretch defenses. Carroll: "This is a guy honestly, I tell you, when we looked at him on film last year we thought, 'Boy, it's going to be a long ways to get him to be a factor for us.' ... We just didn't really know what we had because we hadn't been on the field with him. We saw the speed and the explosion and natural catching ability. He's just improved tremendously."

Also from O'Neil: Leroy Hill is out, again.

More from O'Neil: The Seahawks plan to introduce St. Louis Blues executive Peter McLoughlin as their new CEO at a news conference Thursday. McLoughlin is a Harvard graduate with vast experience brokering deals in the NHL and the corporate world (while with Anheuser-Busch and NBC Sports). The Seahawks have previously said they like their setup. That suggests McLoughlin will fit into the current structure without shaking things up too significantly. Outgoing CEO Tod Leiweke is a St. Louis native with strong hockey roots, and he played a leading role in identifying his successor. The Seahawks job has to be attractive for McLoughlin relative to his job with the Blues, an unprofitable team facing ownership uncertainty.

Greg Johns of says Charlie Whitehurst has little trouble playing the role of Philip Rivers in Seattle practices.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says rookie Golden Tate feels in control of his own destiny. Tate: "The way I see it, being active or inactive is up to me,” he said. “It’s not up to somebody being injured or not playing well, it’s up to me to practice hard and do everything right, to show the coaches I deserve to be out there. How I practice these next days is what will determine whether I deserve it or not."